Italian cyclist lauded in outback cemetery

Although Italian cyclist Leo Beretta lived far from home in the dusty mining town of Coolgardie, he was so esteemed among locals that an eight-foot granite memorial was raised in his memory.

Beretta died when he was training at the Coolgardie Recreation Reserve.
Cycle racing was the world’s most popular and lucrative sport at the turn of the century.

He was travelling at about 40 miles an hour, with the wind behind him when his bicycle’s fork broke and he was pitched to the ground.

He was taken to Coolgardie Hospital but did not regain consciousness before dying the following morning.

The town’s Mayor, about 50 cyclists, and a number of townsfolk attended the unveiling of the memorial.

The memorial took the form of a marble cross, placed on a pedestal of granite, and resting on a square block of cement, enclosed by ‘handsome’ iron railings.

Mayor Chas Sommers said many friends had proposed the erection of a monument, and he was pleased to see that they had succeeded.

 “Leo Beretta was a true sportsman and a straight goer, and had gained the respect of all who knew him.

Coolgalrdie mayor

 Australians, as a nation, when any calamity came amongst them, were always willing, no matter what nationality a man might be, who had resided amongst and made friends with them, to show their appreciation of him.

The grief of the relatives of Beretta would be in a great measure softened by the thought that although their relative was lying away from home in a foreign country, he had not been forgotten by the many good friends he had made, who had erected that handsome memorial to his memory, he said.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a photograph of the proceedings was taken, after which the gathering returned to town.

Coolgardie, WA

SOURCES: Kalgoorlie Western Argus, Thursday 13 September 1900 p 36

Kalgoorlie Miner, Monday 26 November 1900 p 4

Fitzpatrick, Jim. “A Glimpse at Australiaʹs Cycling History.” In Cycling Futures, edited by Bonham Jennifer and Johnson Marilyn, 25-42. South Australia: University of Adelaide Press, 2015. Accessed February 9, 2021.

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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